Date: August 25, 2010
There are plenty who attempt to emulate the Rat Pack, but few can pull off a fedora quite as well as American actor Matt Bomer, star of stateside show White Collar. Effectively Catch Me If You Can has a Thomas Crown Affair, Bomer plays ex-con Neal Caffrey, who benefits significantly from his character’s gruelling wardrobe – in Paul Smith suits or Hugo Boss casuals he helps the FBI track down art thieves. GQ.com decided to find out what we could learn from this modern-day cad, and Bomer was only too willing to share his thoughts on seduction, surviving New York City in style and channelling Paul Newman…
GQ: Who did you base your character’s style on?
MB: Dean Martin specifically was a big influence – both in style and personality. That’s why there’s a bartender at craft services. Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief is someone else we borrow from. Even Alain Delon in Le Samourai.
What did you learn from Caffrey’s style?
The most important thing I’ve learned from the entire experience style wise is that every man should have a great tailor, and visit him or her often. If you’re wearing suits and you want to create your own sense of style, get to the tailor. Our costume designer (Stephanie Maslansky) always pays close attention to the colour of the shirts, pocket squares, vintage cufflinks, tie bars, and fedoras. And, of course, the tailoring. Those are all very specific to the Rat Pack style. As are cigarettes and gin.
Paul Newman is your favourite actor – did you draw on any of his films specifically?
Definitely. I watched The Hustler and The Sting several times when I was preparing for the role. The tone of those films, especially The Hustler, is quite different from White Collar, but the specificity of Newman’s acting is a constant source of inspiration for me. He knew his characters inside and out. And of course there’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which is an essential film to watch if you’re going to do a buddy show.
What is your best recent fashion purchase?
My style could not be more different than Neal’s. My standard uniform is a T-shirt and jeans. Most recently, I picked up a pair of comfortable summer slacks from Freemans Sporting Club, and some short-sleeved button-down shirts from Band of Outsiders.
What is the key to wearing black tie well?
Go commando underneath. It adds an air of mystery.
Have you ever smooth talked your way out of a situation or stolen anything like your character?
Many, many times. I think anyone who’s ever gone through adolescence and wanted something from their parents knows the basic tenets of a con. The difference between myself and Neal is that it usually always comes back to bite me in the ass.
Your character is a serial flirt – can you give us some advice?
One of Neal’s gifts is that he is a master at thin slicing someone. It’s a pretty important tool in the social engineering game. Confidence, intelligence, and a sense of humour go a long way, but you also have to know who you’re dealing with, and adjust your tactics accordingly.
What should every man know about women?
They have vaginas. Seriously, my dad taught me to always (at least try) and be a gentleman. I think chivalry and respect will always go a long way. And listening. If you can remember a key detail from a story you’ve been told six months ago, you’ve just earned major points.
In an early White Collar episode Neal shows off how to flag down a New York cab – have you got any insider tips for surviving the city?
New York City is one of the greatest places on the planet. You have the best in food, art, theatre, and definitely people-watching. We shoot there during the summer, and the only way to survive the city that time of year is to have a really good air conditioning unit, and get out to the incredible parks they have around the city. Between the High Line, and the incredible job they’ve done on the West Side Highway, there are plenty of places to go to get some fresh air.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Thankfully, I’ve gotten a lot of great advice over the years. But when I first graduated college and came to NYC, I was having a hard time scraping two pennies together. My pockets were pretty thin, so I called the old man. He was very straightforward with me. He said, “I paid for college. You’re on your own now.” It was a harsh lesson, but it really lit a fire under my ass. From there on out, it was all bets off. I knew I was going to have to make my own way in the world.
What can we expect from White Collar season two?
Season two has a lot of the same fun, light, Howard Hawks-type tone, with an intelligent procedural thrown in. And the focus is always on the characters and how they relate to one another. Neal’s character is in a darker place, but it never drags the show down. He’s a proactive guy. His MO is to find out who killed Kate, and avenge her death, no matter what it takes. The struggle is between what he feels is right and what the FBI feels is right.
Questions from the fans:
I love Matt’s glasses – can you ask where he got them from?
They are by a company called Initium, and the specific style is called 7th Son.
We’ve read you really enjoy ordering elaborate drinks from Starbucks for yourself and the White Collar cast. Do you currently have a favorite drink you would recommend we try?
Unfortunately, that is pure myth. I like a venti iced Americano, sweetened with stevia, a natural sugar alternative.
What is Matt’s favorite band/song?
Right now I’m really loving the new-ish LCD Soundsystem album [This Is Happening], as well as the new Arcade Fire album [The Suburbs]. My favourite band of all time is probably The Eagles. I’m even a sucker for Henley’s solo career. “Heart of the Matter” is one of my all time favorite songs.
Any truth to the rumour that you are playing Frank Sinatra on Broadway?